A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 25, 2011
“Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been” (hockey adage)

"Skate to where the puck’s going to be, not to where it has been” is advice that Walter Gretzky said (in January 1982) that he gave to his son, hockey great Wayne Gretzky. In 1983, Computerworld recorded that Gretzky’s advice was being used as a metaphor for the computing industry. Investor Warren Buffett used the saying in the 1990s; Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs used Gretzky’s saying in the 2000s at the introduction of the iPhone.

The magazine Fast Company investigated the much-used business saying in 2000. “You’d have to be a real idiot to skate to where the puck used to be,” U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks was quoted as saying. Also, at least one player should always skate after the puck. The “skate to where the puck’s going to be” saying is used to describe Wayne Gretzky’s great hockey instincts and anticipation.

Wikipedia: Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Douglas Gretzky, CC (pronounced /ˈɡrɛtski/; born January 26, 1961) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach. Nicknamed “The Great One”, he is generally regarded as the best player in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL), and has been called “the greatest hockey player ever” by many sportswriters, players, and the NHL itself. Upon his retirement on April 18, 1999, he held forty regular-season records, fifteen playoff records, and six All-Star records. He is the leading point-scorer in NHL history, as well as the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, he tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. Gretzky’s jersey number, 99, has been retired by all teams in the National Hockey League. He was voted one of six players to the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) Centennial All-Star Team in a poll conducted by a group of 56 experts from 16 countries.

Born and raised in Brantford, Ontario, Gretzky honed his skills at a backyard rink and regularly played minor hockey at a level far above his peers. Despite his unimpressive stature, strength and speed, Gretzky’s intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled. He was adept at dodging checks from opposing players, and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time.
Walter taught Wayne, Keith, Brent, Glen and their friends hockey on a rink he made in the back yard of the family home, nicknamed the “Wally Coliseum”. Drills included skating around Javex bleach bottles and tin cans, and flipping pucks over scattered hockey sticks to be able to pick up the puck again in full flight. Additionally, Walter gave the advice to “skate where the puck’s going, not where it’s been”.

‘Great’ and ‘Gretzky’ belong together
By Larry Schwartz
By obeying his father’s advice—“skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been”—he was a star at a young age.
It has been said that Gretzky anticipated better than anyone who ever played the game. He also visualized what should happen, where the other 11 players on the ice would be in the next few seconds.

12 December 1972, Seattle (WA) Daily Times, “Totems’ center forces losing their zip” by Walt Parietti, pg. E4, col. 3:
Babe Pratt, assistant to Bud Poile, Canuck general manager, talked with (Barry—ed.) Wilcox following Saturday’s game, He advised him to stop chasing the puck and anticipate where the puck is going.

27 January 1982, Elgin (IA) Echo, “7Up Sports Stars Sports Talk: Wayne Gretzky,” pg. 4, col. 6:
His father, Walter, taught him the fundamentals a year later. At six, he was playing in a league with 10-year-olds.

“I always told him, ‘Skate to where the puck’s going to be, not to where it has been’,” said his father. “I always felt this was something that had to be learned, not left to instinct.”

Google Books
12 December 1983, Computerworld, pg. 20, col. 1:
Managers Told to “Watch for Telecom Puck”
By John Gallant
WASHINGTON, D.C.—When a reporter once asked Wayne Gretzky how he managed to stay on top of every play, the National Hockey League superstar replied that he did it by focusing on where the puck was going, not on where it was.

That anecdote holds great significance for end users in the dynamic field of telecommunications, according to George DeSalvo, director of communications technology services for International Data Corp. (IDC). Speaking at IDC’s 1983 User Briefing Session here, DeSalvo said management will have to focus on “where the puck is going” in order to take advantage of new telecommunications businesses and services.

Google Books
From the backyard rink to the Stanley Cup

By Walter Gretzky with Jim Taylor
Toronto: McClelland and Stewart
Pg. 39:
Now, if you’ve seen Wayne play you know that one of the things he does best is anticipate where the puck is going to be. It’s something I’ve tried to teach all the boys: don’t follow the puck, go to where it’s going to be. That meant that a lot of times Wayne would be where technically he wasn’t supposed to be. But the puck would be there with him.
29 June 1984, Miami (FL) Herald, “CBS’ ‘Crossroads” leads to dead end,” pg. 14D: 
“Someone asked the hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who has scored more goals than anyone else in the game (in recent years), for the secret of his success,” Moyers said. He answered, ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it’s been.’”

Google Books
Wayne Gretzky
By Jane Mersky Leder; Howard Schroeder; Baker Street Productions.
Mankato, MN: Crestwood House
Pg. 8:
“I always told him, ‘Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been,’” said Walter.

9 December 1988, USA Today, “Oatt bran is ‘80s ‘haute’ cuisine” by Stuart Elliott, pg. 1A:
“It’s the Wayne Gretzky school of marketing: Don’t go where the puck is, go where the puck is going to be.”

14 October 1990, Newsday (Long Island, NY), “The Great One’s Greatest Challenge: Can Wayne Gretzky make hockey the sport of Kings in Los Angeles even after he retires?” by Mark Herrmann, pg. 28: 
As he likes to say: “I go where the puck is going, not where it was.”

13 January 1993, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Florio Pledges 30,000 New Jobs,” pg. A1: 
The governor wrapped his call for action in hockey star Wayne Gretzky’s prescription for success—“don’t be where the puck is, be where the puck is going to be.”

Google News Archive
1 September 1995, Gainesville (FL) Sun, “Populists pick on big government” by George Will, pg. 12A, col. 4:
Wayne Gretsky, asked the secret of his success in hockey, said, “I always skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been.”

Google Books
The Absolutes of Leadership
By Philip B. Crosby
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Pg. IX:
As Wayne Gretzky says, “It’s not where the puck is that counts. It’s where the puck will be.”

Fast Company
CDU to Gretzky: The Puck Stops Here!
By: Jill Rosenfeld
June 30, 2000
Consultant Debunking Unit
It is, of course, the famous saying attributed not to the Great White Whale but to the Great One, Wayne Gretzky: “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is.”
It sounds as if Gretzky’s advice is badly flawed. But that’s not all. “That saying? It didn’t come from Wayne,” adds Howe (hockey great Godie Howe—ed.). “It came from Wayne’s father, Walter.”
Walter confirmed that he had originated the quote and clarified the exact wording. “The quote is ‘Go to where the puck is going, not where it has been,’ “ Walter says.
“You’d have to be a real idiot to skate to where the puck used to be,” Brooks (U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks—ed.) says. “On the other hand, if everyone skated to where the puck is going, you’d have one big train wreck. Sometimes your job on the ice is to take the pressure off of the guy who’s headed for the puck by drawing players away. And sometimes you want to skate to where the puck is, not to where it’s going. When you shoot the puck into the zone, it’s up for grabs—and you have to chase it.”

Google Books
The Essays of Warren Buffett:
Lessons for Corporate America

By Warren Buffett
Edited by Lawrence A. Cunningham
New York, NY: L. Cunningham
Pg. 146:
Our approach, rather, has been to follow Wayne Gretzky’s advice: “Go to where the puck is going to be, not to where it is.” As a result, our shareholders are now many billions of dolalrs richer than they would have been if we had used the standard catechism.

(2007 profile—ed.)
Steve Jobs
CEO, Apple (AAPL)
Age: 52
Apple’s co-founder has started to channel his inner Wayne Gretzky. “I skate to where the puck is going to be,” Jobs said as he introduced the long-rumored iPhone in January, “not to where it’s been.”

Both Sides of the Table
Skate Where the Puck is Going
by Mark Suster on October 17, 2010
Anyone who works in the venture business or frankly just lives in Silicon Valley will be used to hearing a buzz word rise up out of nowhere to capture the technology zeitgeist and find its way into every entrepreneur’s product development plan or every aspiring entrepreneur’s pitch deck.

I call this “the puck at your feet” because it’s not where the industry is heading but rather where the industry is today.  By the time you launch your buzz word feature we’ll be on to the next fad and everybody will be offering your buzz product so it won’t be differentiated.  As an entrepreneur you need to think about where the puck is going.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (1) Comments • Friday, November 25, 2011 • Permalink